It’s important, dear readers, that, as we all wander through this blistering hellscape of life, we take a moment each day to stop and smell the… smallpox?
Formed in Bangkok in 2006, Smallpox Aroma has only just now gotten around to their first full-length record, though they’ve managed an array of splits and a strong EP in 2017’s Repulsive Pleasures. Those early splits were repackaged as Collection Of Vivisection, also in 2017, an exhaustive retrospective of the band’s first decade – and at 68 tracks of programmed-drum goregrinding in just a little over an hour’s time, it’s also a bit of an exhausting one, even if I do recommend it for anyone with a taste for raw-edged bloodsoaked ugliness. (And some credit – programmed though they are, the drum patterns aren’t basic and the songs a little more developed than a vast lot of drum-machine goregrind.)
From there, Repulsive Pleasures is a marked improvement upon what came before, with a noticeable punk influence amongst the usual pathological ones, bolstered by the presence of real drums from drummer Goredick – yep, Goredick – which definitely gives it a leg up on its elder brethren (or perhaps two legs, and also two arms, and maybe a goredi… well, you know).
So now here we are, all the way in 2023, with this first actual Smallpox Aroma album Festering Embryos Of Logical Corruption before us, and what of it in regards to those whiffs of Smallpox past…?
To the slightly more subtle point, they’ve also shifted their musical focus a little further in the direction in the first half of the death/grind formula, away from those more rudimentary beginnings. The brutal death metal influence was always there – pinch harmonics, bits of chunky riffing, relentless savagery – but it was often balanced against that punkier feel, and for Festering Embryos, the metal is moved a little bit further to the forefront. Again, that’s hardly a bad thing, mind you – merit in either approach. It’s merely a noticeable shift towards the more metallic and riffier side of things, and it’s very likely that it could just be that, in the ensuing six years since those records above, Smallpox Aroma has simply… improved.
All that to say that Festering Embryos is a fun and suitably festering pile of death/grind bangers, a level up from the already-solid base of Repulsive Pleasures, and a fine debut for a band that, while not exactly new, is only now exploring the full-length market. Guitarist Septictanklavatory – yep, Septictanklavatory – churns through a series of stout riffs – the catchy thrashy moments in the likes of “Into The Realm Of Nothingness,” with its stomping beatdown midsection, or the chugging bash of “Oh My Sweet Gruesome Scarecrow.” Handled by bassist LS and Goredick, the vocals alternate between a death grunt and a high-midrange rasp, the latter punctuating perfectly some of the catchiest moments on hand, like “Quest For The Missing Head” or “Inherited Ritual Of Savagery” or “Metamorphic Passage Of Time.” Goredick’s drumming is blistering, tight with Septictanklavatory’s carving riffs and the occasional distorted peeks at LS’ bass, the snare drum wound up like a tin can but not quite to Moiscus levels of ping. The whole of Festering Embryos is performed and recorded with some breathing room. It’s a whirlwind of knives and fists, but it’s smart enough to let little bits of space in, to ebb and flow, build and release and build again.
It may have taken a while for Smallpox Aroma to get around to Festering Embryos Of Logical Corruption, but the result is a heck of a good time. I don’t know what the actual aroma of smallpox is – and I’m happier not knowing – but this one smells like damn good death/grind, and that’s good enough for me.
EXTRA BONUS GOREDICK
Not to detract from the strength of the other two members of Smallpox Aroma, but in a fun twist of fate, Festering Embryos is not our only Goredick encounter of the past few months, as he also provides drums and vocals for pathological hyperblasters Cystgurgle, who oozed out a full-length of their own a few weeks back, the beautifully titled Exquisite Macerated Tissue Slippage And Full-Body Degloving Under Extreme Circumstances Of Accelerated Putrefaction. Split into four multi-part suites, separated by medical-report sound samples, Exquisite Macerated Tissue is a relentless onslaught in the mold of Last Days Of Humanity – the vocals are an indistinct eruption of noxious gas; the guitars sound like power tools, at times almost robotic; Goredick’s drums are tornadic, with that snare set to stun, even more so than on the Smallpox Aroma.